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Tunable Encapsulations: Droplet-Based Microfluidics for the Expansion of Biodegradable Polymer Technologies


Dr. Danielle D. Harrier

Exponent: Engineering and Scientific Consulting

May 5, 2022 (4pm - 5pm PST)
NAU Science and Health Building room 106 or via Zoom


Biodegradable polymers are synthesized via a ring-opening polymerization (ROP) process which is water-sensitive. The water sensitivity of the polymerization chemistry prevents any technique using water as a solvent or dispersion media, which ultimately sets a limit on the polymeric material accessible. This thesis describes a droplet-based microfluidic encapsulation strategy that protects the water-sensitive catalyst from the aqueous phase, allowing the ROP to proceed in an aqueous dispersion. The success of this approach relies on simultaneous precise control of the kinetics of polymerization, the rate of mass transfer rates, and fluid mechanics. Dr. Harrier reports, for the first time, the production of biodegradable polymer particles dispersed in water. In this work, Dr. Harrier systematically investigated the process and formulation parameters that govern the stability of the micro-droplets during generation, flow, and collection. More specifically, Dr. Harrier tuned droplet viscosity, surface tension, and hydrophobicity to further shield the ROP catalyst in the aqueous dispersion. Herein, a set of design rules for the tuning of catalyst protection efficiency within the aqueous dispersion are detailed, which ultimately allowed her to perform another water-sensitive ROP to produce polyether particles in water. To demonstrate the power and versatility of the encapsulation methodology, Dr. Harrier crosslinked both chemistries to produce biodegradable elastomers and crosslinked polyethers in continuous flow. This project identifies the fundamental guiding principles to encapsulate water-sensitive polymerization catalysts to yield novel spherical polymer particles dispersed in water.


Attend remotely using the following link/information:


Meeting ID: 871 9279 8393

Password: Bohr


For more information please email Linda Phoenix at NAU (linda.phoenix @ nau.edu).